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Cedar for Sauna Hot Rooms

As we plow forward with building more kick ass authentic saunas in our world, the topic of what particular wood species for our hot rooms is a hot topic. And it is very important to use the right kind of wood in our hot rooms. For example, what is eastern white cedar? I’m pleased to bring into the fold my friend Scott. Scott comes to us with many years of experience in the sauna industry. Here is Scott’s explanation of cedar:

Enter Scott

I have never heard of Eastern White Cedar. I wonder if it could be what is more commonly identified as Northern White Cedar? Or Eastern Red Cedar (aka Aromatic Cedar) is another one it could be and the only Cedar I’ve known to have the “eastern” name in it. If it is Eastern Red Cedar I would avoid it as this is the one that has the pungent smell (often associated w/ “Cedar Closets” and “Cedar Chests”), it reminds me of a hamster cage smell. The other downsides to ERC is that the boards tend to be very streaky and zebra-like which I personally think looks bad.

The two “cedars” that I would strongly discourage using in a sauna application are Aromatic Cedar (Eastern Red Cedar) and Incense Cedar (sometimes called California Cedar). This article may help you in making your decision if you are considering Cedar for your sauna. As always, I encourage the use of clear Cedar. If you are trying to keep costs down, knotty Cedar will work fine for walls but clear Cedar should be used for benches and backrests at a minimum.

Cedar for Exterior Sauna Siding

I am completely overjoyed with using cedar lap siding as an exterior siding for an outdoor sauna. Cedar lap siding is all natural, lasts a long time, looks great no matter what siding is on your primary dwelling, helps to visually create an Up North backyard retreat, and reflects the beauty and aura of the tongue and groove cedar inside your sauna.

Money Saving Tip for Cedar in Your Sauna

As of this writing, Cedar dog ear fence pickets cost $1.80/lineal foot 1×6 tongue and groove Western red cedar is running $3.55/lineal foot. (Source: Menards.) With some resourceful digging via Craigslist, etc. we often are able to find #3 grade tongue and groove at lower price.

As a sauna builder with a commercial account at a lumber wholesaler, I am able to purchase 1×6 Western Red Cedar at about $1.85/lineal foot. This is about the same price that one can find the product on Craigslist, via discount suppliers.

With this pricing, it costs about $1200 to panel a typical sauna hot room with 1×6 Western red cedar. #2 grade knotty. It would cost about $600, maybe less, to panel a hot room with Cedar dog ear fence pickets.

We are talking about apples and oranges in these respects.

Cedar dog ear fence pickets are:

  1. Thinner. About 1/2″ thick.
  2. Not tongue and grooved. Something to consider.
  3. Advertised as “Japanese Cedar.”

I have found no detailed information on Japanese Cedar via the Googlator. Japanese Cedar fence pickets have performed really well for me. I have noted no weirdness. I have had great results using cedar fence panels for trim and cedar duck boards. Matter of fact, I prefer this stock for trim. Cedar fence panels are thin. I like thin trim as it has a lower profile. Lower profile means that trim doesn’t stick out as far. This means there is less chance of rubbing against trim.

For those looking for money saving tips for building their saunas, I encourage you to look into Cedar dog ear fence pickets. For those who have already built their saunas, looking to build duck boards, fix trim, enhance their saunas with additional features, I encourage you to look into Cedar dog ear fence pickets.

When I purchased Cedar dog ear fence pickets, I spent the extra time digging through the pile, grabbing pieces with as few knots as possible. Caution: If using cedar dog ear fence pickets to panel a sauna, it is super important to:

  1. Foil vapor barrier your hot room well.
  2. Cut boards just a little longer than you need them.
  3. Then take a sauna with them before you make your final cuts.

This will allow your cedar fence panels to “kiln dry,” and shrink down their final size. You can stack your cedar fence panels using spacers. As you sauna with your cedar fence panels, you will notice that they talk back a lot less than your buddies do. Like with wearing gym shorts, we want to avoid shrinking as much as we can, otherwise gaps will look embarrassing.

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74 thoughts on “Cedar for Our Saunas”

  1. Above photo is example of more reasonably priced (in North America) knotty t&g Western Red Cedar, of which I am a big fan. Regarding the sauna benches, a sauna enthusiast with keen eyes will note in the photo a few small knots on the lower benches, but clear 2×4 cedar used for upper benches.

    The double secret hot tip on how to purchase “clear” cedar at much less expensive non clear cedar prices can be found in the ebook Sauna Build: from start to Finnish. (at a cost of 1/100th the price of clear cedar vs. knotty cedar). The book is offered here

  2. I dare confess this here, but I built our first sauna with pine tongue and groove. I used much of the advice from Glenn’s e-book still, particularly regarding placement of lower quality materials in unused areas (i.e., placing knotty parts below benches, around stove, etc.). I reserved the clearest pieces for the seating areas and faced the backrests and bench tops with aspen. It took some extra planning and I do not disagree with the general recommendation that cedar is best, but it worked out for us. The hot room has a very pleasant smell and no weeping sap burns to report anyway. Perhaps we got lucky.

  3. What opinions and thoughts do you have on Abachi wood for the benches etc?
    I’m also considering Nordic Spurce for the roof and all paneling for an indoor sauna.

  4. Nordic Spruce is excellent.

    I’ve not sat on benches made from Abachi wood. The species may be good for sauna benches, or may be too hot.. let us know how it goes.

  5. We used a white cedar that looks very much like the cedar in the pics. The lite cedar smell at first was nice but became so strong once heated we could not use and will have to remove. Breathing issues. This common cedar board is sold at Home Depot or Lowes and is usually in stock. Careful.

  6. Hi- I bought your book and found it to be useful. However, I wasn’t able to find:
    “The double secret hot tip on how to purchase “clear” cedar at much less expensive non clear cedar prices can be found in the ebook Sauna Build: from start to Finnish. (at a cost of 1/100th the price of clear cedar vs. knotty cedar)”.
    What page is it on?

  7. Brian: I’ll check on where the double secret hot tip resides within Sauna Build: Start to Finnish ebook. In the mean time, here’s the tip (and it’s a tip that i’ve executed many times at Home Depot / Menards / Lowes. As of this writing, a 2x4x8′ cedar board is/was $8.72. This is for #2 and better. A 2x4x8′ CLEAR cedar board is $32.45 (special order, lumber yard). So, the suggestion is to get your hunting gear on (gloves and a tape measurer is all you need) and head out to a big box lumber retailer and start picking through the stacks. Often, the 8′ bins do not offer much in terms of finding clear boards, so the additional tip is to head over to the 10′ or 12′ bins and start picking through there. As you know the length of your sauna benches, you’ll be able to seek out boards that contain clear sections long enough for your sauna benches. The remnant cuts will be used for framing underneath.

    I am never too proud to do this at a big box retailer locale. I always return unwanted stock to their proper bins and “leave no trace” for good sauna wood karma. If all this is too much for you, then here’s the double secret hot tip: pick through and purchase 2×2’s for your sauna bench. When they mill cedar, they are forced to use clear stock to make 2x2s (otherwise they’ll break if they have knots in them).

    I”ve built 30 plus sauna benches. I love the smell of cedar in the morning, it smells like victory. I get more enjoyment out of finding a clear cedar board than I do catching a fish. I think the hunt is rewarding. I feel that much closer to my sauna benches knowing how special it is to find clear cedar (and at a fraction of the price as clear cedar). Call me crazy, it’s ok.

  8. I love your website. I’m building a sauna inside my 32×40 steel shed. We logged downed windblown northern white cedar and had 850′ of 1″x 4,5&6″ boards sawn for only $80. Then had them planed and t&g for less than $300. I think Northern white cedar should work great. Sure looks good!

  9. Great work Mark! Take some pics. Northern White Cedar is about as good as it gets, especially windblown down trees (vs. clear cut/harvested). Love the random widths too: it shows the resourcefulness of using as much of the material as possible. Awesome.

  10. I’m about to panel my sauna. And i am deciding between grade A white cedar and grade A western red cedar. The white is 1.22 a Lineal Ft and western red is 1.55. That’s in Canada. Any experience using white cedar? Somebody said the smell becomes unbearable after a while…did anyone else have that experience?

  11. Probably worth it to mention if one already has the tools, it is fairly easy to make tongues and grooves on boards. Router and a couple of bits. And maybe a third bit if you want to be fancy and bevel the edge a bit.

  12. Glenn, thanks for pointing this out. I used recycled versions of these cedar pickets, which had already been used as fence and rustic paneling in an apartment. It is now on its third use, and needed a little sanding, but worked just fine. Probably 75% were warped a little or not very straight. One can just rip them lengthwise on the table saw to straighten them out. You may lose 1/4″ or so, but not really significant. I also ripped them at a beveled angle of about 5 degrees to give the effect of overlap for any remaining straightness imperfections.

    The best ones were saved for bench materials. Though I will admit that I was too cheap even to use the recycled cedar for the duck boards. Sanded boards from old pallets work great for this because they are generally water tolerant and you don’t mind when they get cruddy or ruined. Once sanded and trimmed to fit your space, they don’t look like pallets at all.


  13. I have not build my sauna yet, still in the planning stages. I have given thought to this idea though of using fence panels. It would be pretty easy to run them through a table saw to make a form of ship lap. You will have to face nail the boards, this is the draw back. However it would be wise to use stainless steel brad nails to mitigate the dark staining that will develop with standard brad nails.

    Thanks for this post Glenn!

  14. whether you cut the boards or buy you need T&G boards in hot room. you will see the foil wrap if you dont use T&G.
    The changing room is a great place to save $ and use the fencing.
    spend $ wisely.

  15. Would dog eared pickers need to be planed to be smooth enough for the hit room? Just thinking aloud. I like this thrifty idea!

  16. About to build my first sauna and this is the route I’m taking. I found a pallet of 140 WRC planks 1″x 8″x 6′ for 300 bucks. Best I found in my search so I went for it. The plan is to sand them down then stainless Brad nail them and then wood putty the holes to avoid any exposed metal.

    Without that T&G overlap there could be a gap that may expose the foil – maybe running some wood grain tape over the foil between each seam would eliminate that.

    I also thought about just beveling each plank at 45 along both edges to make an overlap.

    Any suggestions or insight is appreciated.

  17. Cody: I think it’s great. After foil wrap and taping the seams and everywhere, I would season the wood in my sauna for a few sessions, just lay out the boards with air gaps and sauna with the wood as if the planks were your best friends.

    Then nail the wood up. If over time the wood separates a bit and you can see the foil behind, well, them’s the breaks, because you’ve done something unique and cost effective and it’s just part of the character. That’s how I see it.

    But someone else could argue that for about the same time invested messing around with your $300 planks, instead, you could, say, do a little landscaping moonlight work over a weekend and earn enough cash to purchase pretty high grade tongue and groove cedar.

    So it’s all about how we pronounce potato. We are doers and take satisfaction in doing. What we enjoy, how we value our time, and apply the formula: WIT/M = :).

  18. The T&G cedar in our sauna was grown and available here in Maine. The smell when heated up was over powering for us. Just mentioning this as we had to take it out. Ouch!

  19. Eastern Red Cedar is a whole new animal, as you experienced, Steve. For gerbil cages and cedar clothes closets.

  20. How has the Japanese cedar been performing for you with sustained use? i.e. smell, structural, signs of warping.
    I have the option to buy it in New Zealand for much cheaper than Western Red but as you say, the googlator isn’t revealing any answers!

  21. Mitch:

    Japanese cedar: thumbs up! The smell is familiar, like victory in the morning. It is prone towards curling and warping (probably as it is only 1/2″ thick), but with some face nailing it’s doing fine. I have been working with Japanese cedar mainly for trim, years but I just finished an extensive screen porch project where I used the Japanese cedar fence boards to make knee walls with good success.

    Tip: Lay all the boards out during a sunny day or two to dry out. I happen to have given mine a good sauna session, overnight to dry them out, then started working with them.

    Thought: I ran the fence boards through table saw, given the edges a 45. My hunch is that in an aggressive sauna climate, they will curl. How nuts would it be to run these boards vertically, with firing strips or sleepers between joists such that the spans are less than 16″ oc?

  22. Larry:

    Absolutely! Go for it. Suggestion: After foil bubble wrap stage, install stove, fire up, and then bring all your cedar dog ear pickets into sauna and give them a good sauna session. Toss some water on the rocks, etc. Sit on the bench with the cedar boards and talk to them, like you would a good friend. Really “cure” your boards, then install. (I’ve learned this trick the hard way – separation anxiety).

  23. I am seriously looking at using the dog ear Cedar pickets, thought I would do a shiplap on the edges, I have a friend who built the number of fences in California this way so that it was more private, just wondering how in the sauna if it will hold up with the moisture? if that will create more warping?
    Also thought about just using this under the benches and maybe on the ceiling so that it can help save some of the cost of the tongue and groove

  24. Find someone who wants to get rid of an old cedar deck. They might even pay you to take it down for them. Remove all nails. Plane the wood. Mill it into tongue and groove. Throw steam. Be happy. I know a few saunas made this way. It’s more work, but works well, and it’s free. A good finlander can’t argue with that.

  25. We are currently about halfway through lining the inside of our sauna with cedar pickets. They came from the lumber yard at 5/8″ thick. I’m using a thickness planer on one side to get the thickness down to 1/2″ while at the same time smoothing that side. Then, I use a router table to put the shiplap rabbets in them. I never could have afforded top quality new tongue and groove stuff, and this way each piece gets custom cut to fit perfectly where it belongs. It looks much better than I expected.

  26. Nathan: Super great! Please email me a couple pics. Maybe we do a guest post on saunatimes? So great what you’re doing, a little table saw effort to save some coin.


    Howdy, just wanted to check back in and give you an update. I ended up NOT replacing my eastern red interior. I dug deep on the internet and ended up using two methods to help reduce the intense aroma of the eastern red cedar.

    1). Bake the living hell out of the hot room. I ran the stove SEVERAL days at high high heat. Intermittently, I would hose down the room and the stove to create a steam so hot that the devil himself couldn’t survive in.

    2). In the midst of some of these hot room baking sessions, I would dilute 1.0gal white vinegar to 2.5gal water into my Stihl backpack sprayer, and spray the whole interior down. This helped neutralize the intense aroma quite a bit.

    All that plus eventual frequent sauna use has released enough of the wood’s resin to make it so my hot room is very nice smelling and enjoyable. I had to give it my best shot; after all, I did plane and route every single one of those boards on that build. Would I use the proper cedar next time?? absolutely yes. I just wanted to let you know that there IS hope for anyone else who makes the same mistake.

    Thanks for writing me back so quickly amidst my sauna crisis.

    Here is to a great summer! Cheers.

  28. So far I’ve had great success using incense cedar fence boards purchased from Home Depot for the entire exterior of my sauna. I’ve beveled all the long edges at 45 degrees on the tablesaw so they fit together nicely, with no gaps. Stainless steel brads are barely visible. I’ll do the same in the changing room, and just might do the hot room this way as well!

  29. Hi Glenn, thanks for all the great advice! I’ve been learning a ton from your musings~

    I’m in Western Massachusetts and am currently creating a convertible closet/sauna (a sloset? clauna?), hopefully with some hinged, fold-out benches (assuming they’re strong enough lol). I bought a bunch of knotty western red cedar t&g for the walls and ceiling, and clear cedar for the benches, as per your recommendation.

    However, in the photos above, it looks like you have at least 4 clear wall panels directly above the upper bench. Is this correct? If so, I see the logic in that, as it would make those particular boards safer to lean on. I wonder if that’s your reasoning, and whether it’s worth the extra coin to do something similar. Otherwise, an alternative might be to install some clear backboards/headrests later? This would be a little cheaper, but not much…

    Welcome your thoughts and thanks again for this great resource!

  30. Hi Nick:

    Fab. Glad all is going well with your closet sauna build.

    Regarding what looks like at least 4 clear wall boards, very perceptive!

    Tip: cut all your wall boards and lay them out against a wall. Then pick the worst ones for under the benches, and the best ones, the mostly non knotty ones, for above your bench, where your apt to lean against. I think this is a better way to roll than purchasing clear boards. Going with the same stock is better as they all fit together and have the same profile.

    Those are my thoughts!

  31. Milagros: The Tuff Shed model used by Steve is called “Auerbach pro ranch.” If you call the Shakopee, MN Tuff Shed and ask for this, the sales folks should have this on file (I have ordered a few of these exact units).

    If they’re out to lunch, tell them you want a “12×8 reverse gable, man door on 12′ side, 2′ from end wall, 1′ gable and eave overhangs, 2 openings for windows, detailed by the ROs defined by these windows i’m purchasing from …”

    Hope this helps, man. Starting at the shed stage is a sweet way to go.. as you know.

  32. Just curious about the Tuff Shed model Steve used for the sauna he built (which this blog is related to). Is this in your ebook?

  33. Hi Glenn,

    Love the podcast. Question about wood species.

    I was able to get a hold of a LOT of Port Orford Cedar and built a barrel sauna. I’m in the PNW so heat retention is not an issue and I’m using a 6 KW heater in less than 6 feet and it gets really really hot. The issue is, the smell is incredibly pungent. WAY TOO pungent right now. Is there something I can do to reduce the smell from the wood? Possibly some sort of cleaner or something that can help to extract some of the natural ordors from the wood? Should I just run the sauna for a few weeks to help reduce the aroma? A little aroma is fine, but man-0-man it was way too intense the first time we used it lol.

  34. Hi Patrick:

    Glad you are enjoying Sauna Talk, and its affiliate partners in crime.

    I don’t know Port Orford Cedar. If it’s Western Red Cedar, you’re in luck. I’ve worked with this material for 30 years. I love the smell of cedar in the morning… it smells like… victory. And the smell does dissipate over time, whether it’s fences, benches, or sauna walls.

    If this species is Eastern Cedar, well that’s the stuff that gerbil cages and closets are made out of, and damn it’s heavy duty from an odiferous standpoint.

    Please keep us posted. Fingers crossed!

  35. just curious, for those of you saying give your dog ear fence boards a good sauna session, are you just running the sauna with just the vapor barrier bubble wrap up and no finished walls ?

  36. Hi, I am new here. I am excited to poke around and see what knowledge I can pick up as I start this new hobby of Sauna. My question regarding cedar choices…My lumber yard has Incense Cedar only at this time. I have been reading everywhere to find out if it is appropriate to use to line my sauna. I have seen a review that it is similar to Western Red, just not as good. And also an expert who said avoid it, but didn’t give a reason.

    Can someone tell me if it is ok to use as a poor man’s Western Run, or will it be problematic (maybe too much aroma?) and for what reason. I do like the lower price per linear foot it sells for.


  37. Hi Michael:

    A simple cheat sheet on cedar:
    1. Western Red Cedar – this grows tall and mighty in Northwest part of North America. Wonderful and ideal.
    2. Eastern White Cedar – this grows in pockets around North America, and you guest it, mainly out East. Great for sauna, harder to find as clear.
    3. Eastern Red Cedar – also called aromatic cedar. Not good! This is gerbil cages and cedar closet stuff. Way too pungent. I think we should submit to the Cedar Trade Council to officially change the name of this away from Eastern Red (hugely confusing) and over to aromatic.

    #1 and #2 – very good for sauna.
    #3 – “run away” (like in the movie Monte Python and the Holy Grail).

  38. Hi Glenn,

    I am so grateful for your thorough explanations in your ebook, which was about the best return on investment ever.
    I am almost done with my 8 x 12 sauna build on our land by Yosemite, CA, and will share photos once I am done.
    A question I have about the Western Red Cedar benches:
    Do they have to be treated with any oil? A friend of mine suggested Pine Oil. But wouldn’t that affect how they transmit heat to your body? But, if untreated isn’t the sweat and water being absorbed by the wood and cause stains?
    In my home country of Germany where, as you probably know, sauna is a biiiig deal, we are religious about not letting anyone’s sweat get on the sauna benches and in public saunas there will be signs reminding you of that.

    Thanks, Roman

  39. Hi Roman:

    So glad my ebook has helped you out. And quite flattering about “best return on investment ever.” Appreciate the kind words.

    Treating cedar benches: I have never done this. And I recommend no treatment of sauna benches of any kind. I hear you about sweat on the benches, but my cabin sauna benches (built in 1996 and backyard sauna benches in 2003) have never been treated and they are totally nice looking and just fine “au naturalle” all these years.

    A side note on Germans and sweat on sauna benches. The President of the 612 Sauna Society is German. We were in the 612 sauna last year and I could tell she was getting a bit unnerved as I had no towel under me while sitting in the sauna. (And I am Vice President of the 612 Sauna Society!). A public sauna faux pas I now understand. For me, with sauna in the private domain, however, the no sitting on a towel program provides a hygienic closed loop. When I leave the hot room to cool down, a wet sweaty bench becomes bone dry by the time I return for next round. And I don’t have to worry about trying to remember which towel is the sweat towel or the clean towel.

    Happy for your sauna build Roman!

  40. Hi Glenn:

    Thank you for this article.

    I live in Louisiana (hot and humid) and am in the process of converting a portion of my shed (attached to home) into a 5x7x8 sauna.

    Clear cedar is too expensive for me at this time and I’m looking for alternatives. You say knotty (aka tight knot?) cedar will work for the budget-conscious builder? What is the major drawback here? Is it mostly aesthetics or is there a real issue with knots warping and popping out over time?

    Also, I have been told that Spanish Cedar (while apparently not a true cedar) has similar qualities to Western Red Cedar and in some cases might be a more affordable alternative to CLEAR WRC. Do you have any knowledge or experience with that species?

    Appreciate any guidance! – Max

  41. Hi Max:

    I actually like knotty more than clear. It’s very subjective to anybody, but for knotty connotes rustic bad ass nature sauna, which is my sauna DNA. The clear cedar sauna vibe, again to me, is like i’m at a fancy restaurant trying remember which fork to use for my salad.

    Spanish cedar: maybe others can chime in. in my book, Sauna Build Start to Finnish, I detail a lot of information about wood species. The cedar info. stops at Eastern Red Cedar (a hamster cage no no for sauna). I have used Japanese cedar, which is the species used to make cedar fence panels at Home Depot. This material works awesome. If it is related to or a step cousin of Spanish Cedar, well, I’d say you’re in business. Hope this helps and apologies to the dancing around to your question.

  42. Thank you Glenn! You’ve given me the confidence I needed.

    I got feedback from a local lumber supplier:
    1. Spanish Cedar is more expensive than tight-knot WRC.
    2. It has a distinctive odor.
    3. When cutting / working with, its particles are NOT good to breath. I would imagine this carries over to when you are trying to use your sauna (ie, taking deep breathes, etc.)

  43. Hi Glenn/Sauna Times community;

    Had a chance to buy a large lot of used cedar dog ear fence pickets for a decent price for my sauna build;
    I have a nice Dewalt planer so they should be nice and clean once I’m done with this part.

    I know what my options are to overlap and secure boards, however I am still undecided on the most effective (effort vs benefits) approach; I have ranked various options below from what I think is best to worse.
    Let me know what you think; So far, I’m thinking 30 degrees bevel.

    – use router and make your own T&G (I don’t have the correct tools to do this – time consuming – no nail heads showing ; feel free to comment if you’ve done it and the method used)
    – Shiplap (time consuming on the router and would require 2-pass on the table saw)
    – 30 degreees bevel (maybe less risk of breaking/warping at the sharp ouside angle vs 45 degrees?)
    – 45 degrees bevel

    Thank you!

  44. Yann:

    I just 45° bevelled a shit ton of cedar dog ear fence panels for exactly what you are doing, too.

    I think it’s great.

    The advantage of 45° bevel is that you can flip boards so as to choose the best face forward.

    Only other suggestion: cut all your boards about 1″ long. Then move over to chapter 7 of the ebook, and install your sauna stove. Then bring in all your cedar material and sauna with it, so as to acclimate the material and reduce chances of shrinking / expanding.

    I did this, and feel better that most all of the expanding and contracting of the material has it out of its system.

    But given you are using used fence paneling, maybe it’s already gone through its expansion, contraction, acclimation.

  45. Thanks for the suggestions Glenn,

    Yes, based on your previous posts, I was already planning some sauna time with a bunch of cedar boards; I’ve heard they are great listeners =)

    What do you mean by cutting all boards about 1 inch long? do you mean an inch “longER” for potential shrinkage before final cut ? otherwise that’s a lot of small boards! =)

    So you don’t see any benefit on lowering the angle to 30° ?

    Thanks again!


  46. Yann:
    Yes, cut them a little longer than the final cut, in case you get some lateral shrinkage during the curing process. This may be a tad overkill, but with the 1/2″ fence panels, we can cut 6 or so at a time on the miter saw, so it goes pretty fast.

    30° angle:
    I kind of lock myself into the 45° angle. Having this degree on both edges allows us to flip the board to pick the best face of each board. Plus more angle means more surface across the plane of the boards, so that if they separate, there’s less chance of exposure. But if you want to go 30° with yours, I say do it, and lemme know how it works out, thx.

  47. Hi Glenn.
    I’m from Uruguay South America. I’m thinking in building an outdoor sauna on my beach house. Wood stove would be my first choice since electric stoves are really expensive here. The main issue I see so far is the wood to use inside since cedar is not easy to come by and very expensive. I have to choose from eucalyptus clear with no knots or pine. I know what you think about pine. So any thoughts about eucalyptus? Regards

  48. Hi Federico:

    I haven’t worked with eucalyptus. Is it pungent? Here in N. America, we have “Eastern Red Cedar” and as much as Western Red Cedar is great for sauna, Eastern Red is awful for sauna. Way too pungent. It’s the material used to line cedar closets to keep moths from eating at clothes.

    So, that’s the only thing i’m thinking as far as eucalyptus wood for hot room paneling. Let me know how you make out! Sauna on!

  49. New to SaunaTimes and working on my own budget sauna build…

    Quick question-
    If I find repurposed cedar T&G flooring that has been finished to use for the sauna interior, is it best to sand the finish off or should I steer clear because of vapors?

    Any help is appreciated!

  50. If you sand off the finish, you should be fine because you won’t have any sealants on it, you’ll be back to bare wood.

  51. Hello from MN and thanks so much for the great advice!
    I happen to have 100+ 2×6 and 1.5 x5 5 Cedar decking boards. Some are treated some aren’t. My question is would these work or is this a very silly idea and possibly dangerous? Or; could I slab the exterior and frame w such and maybe dog ear the interiors? Thanks again.

  52. Erik,

    It’s such a good idea that if you give me your address, I just may show up with my trailer, help you with your cedar and haul 1/2 of it away for my trouble.

    The treated cedar:
    either plane it or use it for exterior.

    The non treated cedar:
    Absolutely! Since you’ve come this far, consider putting a call out for router bits to t&g the product. It’s not that unreasonable to do so. Alternatively, with your table saw, you could create a ship lap joint for creating paneling for your hot room.

    So, it’s either my morning coffee or the fact that you have a gold mine of an opportunity right in your backyard, because i’m jazzed up for you!

    As you know, we build our saunas one time, and get to enjoy them for the rest of our lives. I’d love to have you consider a guest post here on saunatimes, and we can work the title into something like “Erik turns a recycled cedar deck into his own authentic Finnish sauna” or something like that.

    You’ve got a great project in front of you. Let’s get it going on. Follow the ebook and pls. take pics. (I’m on your team) and looking forward to your guest post, documenting your action.

  53. Thanks I will definitely keep you posted on any progress! Wife is pregnant and cannot hot tub so I thought hey minus the -10⁰ and 2′ of snow maybe I could get at this or in the spring! I do appreciate your feedback and I’ll definitely follow the ebook. Greetings from MN!

  54. Peter:

    Well, not directly, but I have helped with others backing out on using 1/4″ cedar. Primary reason is that the expansion and contraction is quite vulnerable with using this thin of material. The tongues and grooves are really thin with 1/4″, vulnerable to cracking and separating.

    Also, thin cedar like this is a lämpömassa compromise. A log sauna holds a massive amount of heat, and this heat mass is felt everywhere. The thicker the paneling, the better the lämpömassa. Alex at BSaunas even doubled 2×6 in his ceiling, then paneled his ceiling. He is a lämpömassa monster and I prescribe to this, as when you feel good heat, it’s all over.

  55. I’m getting very close to wood planing my 1×10 white oak lumber I’ve had racked for 25 years kept inside, cutting them into 1×2.5″, T&G. Only using this for the walls for extreme lämpömassa. Oak density would soak a lot of heat up. The 2.5″ board would prevent any cupping. The age should mean it’s good and dried.

    No one does this which troubles me

    In my two man Helo, I’ve air nailed 5 samples of this white oak to the walls and ceiling. They appear fine. I’ve tested them by throwing water on them, steaming up the room, rubbing my oils and perspiration on them time and again. Had this in place for 6 months 3 times a week-ish. They pass my personal tests.
    I can’t see why I shouldn’t use all this nearly free lumber other than it is likely a lot of work to work it up. I think oak might be even better than pine because it’s the lämpömassa factor.

    So far I’ve talked to an Eastern European man who told me they use oak paneling. He said T&G would be ok if it were 2.5″.

  56. Regarding oak paneling for your hot room: when you say “no one does this, which troubles me”, well this is exactly what I was going to mention for consideration.

    But you’re right, there are pockets in Eastern Europe where Oak is a common tree species, so it is used for banya/sauna paneling as well as for veniks.

    From what you’ve written, it seams that your mind is made up to use oak paneling for your hot room. And there’s nothing wrong with trudging forward. One of the things I do, when I build and design, is to always leave myself an out. You’ve tested the white oak, and the paneling performs, so why not panel the ceiling completely and go with that for a few sessions? Then, when this next step succeeds, the next step will be your walls, and before you know it, you’ve baby stepped the entire project to completion.

    As oak is a tight grain hard wood, the main reason why we shy away from this species is that it gets hot as hell to the touch. Very uncomfortable if you brush against it. So, you’ll mill some softer material for backrests.

    Check back here and let us know how it goes for you!

  57. Glenn,

    Green, Aspen boards are available locally at $250 for my whole hot room interior. Will these shrink and warp a lot if I nail/screw them up green?

  58. Most likely yes. You could start taking saunas at the foil stage, and cut these boards about 1″ longer than you need, then start taking saunas with these boards for a few times. This will help acclimate the aspen to your hot room climate. Then do your final cuts after a few sauna sessions, and apply to your walls.

  59. I just finished building a barrel sauna and for the past week and half I’ve been using it daily in combination with a cold tub I also built. I love it. I used California incense cedar. I have not experienced strong aroma’s as others have noted. For the price of lumber it can’t be beat. I found a local mill in California Sierra Foothills an hour east of Sacramento. $1.25 board foot for full dimensional lumber. Total lumber price for the build $800. Glenn I love your blog and website, lots of useful information here. Thank you

  60. My husband is a pool builder and came home with these cedar paneling (11″ or so) for me to use for free. I used it in my changing room wall and door to the hot room (T&G on the hot room side), but I have enough leftovers to cover a small wall or half of my back wall (maybe under the floating benches?). Is this something I could use in the hot room? I would probably cut the edges at 45 degrees, but I’m more worried about the fact that those strips are probably glued together and finger-jointed. My husband said that actually makes it stronger? Thoughts? I can will send a picture by email if you’re not sure what I’m referring to. My sauna is starting to talk to me now, giving me ideas…

  61. Hi. I just finish building my first sauna. We used western red cedar from local NC place where they cut it for you. It turn out unbelievable but we do have a problem. It’s my second time warming it up and after 60 degree it starts to smoke, white smoke inside the sauna. I was told that it’s because the cedar is not dry and it will stop as soon as it’s dry enough 😞 I am so upset that I can’t use it NOW !!! Can someone confirm that that is the problem I am having and what to do now

  62. White smoke: is this smoke as in smoke from wood burning, or smoke from moisture/condensation? I think it’s written above, but one of the “tricks” is to cut our boards, bring them into our hot room, and before nailing them up, after the foil stage, take a sauna with our boards to get them acclimated. It’s in my ebook, anyway, but this is water under your bridge. Let us know what’s happening.

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